THE first thing you notice about Joel Embiid is his size.
He’s 7ft tall and nearly 18 stone – shaking his hand is makes you wonder how a human this massive could ever be a professional court.
But then you see the Cameroonian star on the court, watching him move with the speed, grace, agility and violent intentions of a great white shark.
Fans were made to wait for that day.
Two years of season ending injuries, after he was the No 3 pick in 2014 NBA draft, left everyone wondering if he would ever fill his seemingly limitless potential.
And then Embiid finally suited up for the Philadelphia 76ers – who are heading to London in January to face the Boston Celtics.
THE GLOVE FITS
NBA legend Gary Payton on LeBron, Kyrie and his top give point guards
Where can I buy tickets for the Sixers vs Celtics NBA London game in 2018?
OH MY GORD
NBA star Gordon Hayward shatters ankle live on TV on his Boston Celtics debut
Despite playing just 31 games of the 82-game NBA season, Embiid narrowly lost out to Malcolm Brogdon in the Rookie of the Year award.
So exciting was Embiid every time he took the court, that Brogdon only really claimed the crown because the Cameroonian played so little – Brogdon logged 1,196 minutes more than Embiid in fact.
The Philadelphia centre shone in his 31 matches, averaging 20 points, eight rebounds, two assists and 2.5 blocks in just 25 minutes per night.
Stretched out across a full season and full games, those minutes would be MVP worthy.
After years of losing under ‘The Process’ – a strategy of deliberately losing games in a bid to secure high draft position – Philadelphia are on the brink of something special.
Along with Embiid, they will also field 2017 No 1 pick Markelle Fultz, 2016 No 1 pick Ben Simmons.
The trio have generated a mountain of hype this off-season.
And with hype comes expectations, despite Embiid being the oldest of those at 23 and Fultz (born in May 1998!) aged just 19, the club is expected to push for a play-off spot for the first time since 2012.
Embiid, who started this season with another impressive outing against the Washington Wizards, even if Brett Brown’s side lost, is only adding to that hype train.
Asked earlier this summer about his goals and expectations for the season, Embiid did not hold back.
He wants to be named defensive player of the year.
Embiid said: “What I really want to win is defensive player of the year next year – last year if I hadn’t got hurt I think I was on that track.
“I was the best defender in the league in terms of protecting the rim, switching on guards, helping my team defensively.”
And Embiid, despite relatively little evidence to truly back it up, knows the sky is the limit.
“Every basketball player wants to say I want to be a Hall of Famer, but not everyone has the talent to do it,” he says when asked about his long-term goals.
“I kind of doubted myself, but when I played I think I have the talent to become a Hall of Famer – to win championships and MVP.”
Although his comments may sound boastful, the giant Embiid does not come across so – his words are said with a humble determination that shows he realises he is in possession of a unique gift for the game.
How else would he have become a rookie of the year runner-up just seven years – including two where he didn’t play at all – after picking up a basketball for the first time?
Growing up in Yaounde, Embiid had initially wanted to be a footballer or play volleyball, but was put onto basketball because of his size.
Cameroon at the time had just two indoor courts in the country and former coaches called the big man “terrible” when he first picked up the game.
He modelled his game on Houston Rockets legend Hakeem Olajuwon (and it shows with his dominant back-to-the-basket game), after being given an old videotape of 1990s basketball legends by one of those coaches.
Cameroonian NBA star Luc Mbah a Moute, now with the Rockets, put on a camp one summer and spotted Embiid, eventually helping him get a visa to the US where he played in high school and a single season at college powerhouse Kansas.
His incredible, unlikely rise has been stunted by the injury problems – a broken foot and slow healing cost him his first two seasons – but he is now back on track.
Read any pre-season preview and the 76ers are a dark horse to make some real noise, while fans and pundits alike just pray for a full season of health.
The excitement for the giant, who has also gained mass popularity for his hilarious social media posts, has reached fever pitch.
Can he live up to his great expectations?
“I think I have the talent to become a Hall of Famer, if I stay healthy,” he finishes.
“And I intend to stay healthy.”
Tickets for the NBA London Game 2018 will go on general sale Friday, October 20 at 9am BST at theo2.co.uk/nba2018.
Fan holding a CHILD joins in brawl between Everton and Lyon in shameful scenes
Mesut Ozil ‘tells Arsenal team-mates’ he’s going to be joining Manchester United
‘I’m just swollen’
Bobby Norris denies having multiple surgeries as he hits back at haters
GUEST OF HONOUR
Fergie joins Gary Neville and Ryan Giggs to unveil Salford City’s new home
TO THE WIRE
Mayweather prodigy Davis facing ‘ten years in prison’ over assault charge